Category Archives: 31 days of moving on

Dare I dare to be me?

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Dare I dare to be me? It feels quite audacious to even think it. Who am I? Who’s me? When you’re a domestic abuse survivor (and, yes, I do like the word survivor, because that was some tough kind of love I went through but I came through it and I think I’ve earned the right to use a positive label around myself), you’ve lost yourself so horribly, so terribly, you feel you’re not you. When the abuse included emotional abuse, when the abuser crawled inside your head, rubbing shit all over its walls, then you’re so stressed, so full of mental trauma, that it’s actually quite difficult – between reliving particularly horrid episodes and battling to forget – to remember who you were and forge a path back to that you. All the breadcrumbs were eaten years ago. By quite sinister predatory crows going by the names of Shame, Humiliation and the tough one, Mental Torture. It’s difficult to know when – how – to regroup when you’ve endured this. So the question becomes not ‘what am I going to do now (now you’ve escaped)’ but ‘where am I going to find myself again to be able to move on and then do something’? The ‘something’ kinda takes second place to the need to rediscover yourself and find firm footing, confidence-wise, to be able to feel able to move onwards. You take baby steps, baby baby steps, a new nail polish colour, little trips out on your own to give yourself a boost, new combinations of clothes you love, a slight sashay in your walk as you realise, once again, how much you love life. Then you start to think bigger. Bigger. Brighter. En grande. What’s the most audacious thing you could do? How would you feel if you did it? [All the while simply daydreaming it]. Your daydreams give you wings. You expand your reach. Dare that little bit bigger. You realise that, yes, of course you can dare to dare to be you. Because, wtf, you is all you have. You have to live you to the fullest. It’s pretty much an obligation. Ain’t no-one else gonna do it for you, babe, and you know you’re not one of those people who dies knowing they had things left un-done. If that thought doesn’t scare the bejeez out of you, then nothing else will. Get dreaming. Get dare-ing. Get daring. Damn right you’re going to dare to dare to be you. You owe it to yourself. And you’ve got a whole lot of wasted time to make up for.

[This was my response for today’s prompt for the 31 days of moving on challenge (‘dare’), which coincided, today, with Five Minute Friday. I spent 7 minutes (not 5) writing]

Fear wilts hearts

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Your heart, your essence, that little voice inside that speaks to you, that’s you. You’ve got to guard it jealously. Protect it from fear. The fear that tells you you’re not good enough. Or not clever enough. Or shouts ‘Who are you to dream?’. Or tells you you’re not ready. Fear like this – largely unfounded fears – will, at best, discourage you and, at worst, paralyse you. They’ll diminish your dreams, keep you from pursuit by distorting reality. Keep you static. In some death-like waiting room.

Life is meant to be lived. Meant to be enjoyed. Savoured. Not cowered away from like some beaten down dog with its tail between its legs. Stand up. Push your chest out. Keep your head held high. Live your life in such a way that it entices you to want to be. see. do. more.

Don’t let fear stop you. Fear’s a figment of your imagination, a falsehood. Reality wrapped in a cunning disguise. Don’t let it overtake you. Don’t let it dampen your joy. Go forth and seek joy. Seek the details of life. Immerse yourself in them. Become, through this, fearless. See so much beauty, all you come to see is potential.

Rage at the things you fear. Rage at them, blindly scattering them. Send them off cowering, tails between their legs. Step towards them as they return, regrouped, and face them head on, these bullies that batter you. It’s no cha-cha-cha. What’s needed is a stand-off where you, The Brave, wins.

You’re cautious? That’s fear. Beat it down. You’re letting your common sense, and not your heart, guide you? Fear. Beat it down. You’re being practical? Heaven help us. It’s fear. Beat it down.

If you don’t stop to recognise how fear transforms itself to reappear time and time again in your life, it’ll take advantage of you. It’ll continue to show itself in a million different ways, all of them eroding your capacity to live fully, to live the life you imagine.

Don’t listen to the voice that says ‘No’. Listen, instead, to the small voice that says ‘I can and I will’, the voice that comes from deep, deep within, speaking softly, so softly you struggle to hear. She’s quiet because she needs you to have fought fear before you can understand what she’s trying to tell you. But she’s the strong one, the true one, the one you need to fight for. The one you have to guard with all your might.

Don’t let anything wilt your heart.

Least of all fear.

[Part of 31 days of moving on, in response to today’s prompt, Fear. I spent 12 minutes writing, a whole lifetime on the research]

Honour the beauty of life

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As the Mama of an 8 and a 4 year old, I’ve always considered it an important part of parenting to make time to let them appreciate beautiful things. To teach them that it’s important to slow down, to take time to look for beauty and, when found, to stop and drink it in. To internalise it. This might be stopping to look at a flower or to hear birdsong or to feed the ducks or stopping so they can hear the busker in the street. I really think it’s an important life skill for them to learn, to be able to identify, to take pleasure in, the little things of life. To heighten their awareness of their surroundings, of the connectedness of the world, to teach them appreciation and thankfulness. What would the world look like if we all slowed down, took time to look for the beauty and didn’t let ourselves be diminished by the negative? What do you think?

[This post is my response to today’s prompt – honour – for 31 days of moving on. Shout out to Chelsea who prompted me – inspired me – to get my camera back out and start shooting beauty again. Thank you]

A taste, a glimpse

Taste

My boy’s growing up.

I have to say it’s taken me by surprise and I’m running to catch up, wondering how to walk the tightrope that is trying to balance his need for independence with my desire for offering him the care, and closeness, I always have.

Parenting is a journey of constant learning, constant reflection.

Wondering whether you’re doing the right thing, cursing yourself for not saying exactly the right thing, trying to anticipate their needs as far as possible whilst trying to remember to live in the moment and enjoy them as much as possible because they grow – and change – a little every single day.

Every day I get glimpses – tastes – of the person he’s becoming and it startles me with the sheer brilliance of its radiance. He’s a little pot of talent and potential, waiting to burst forth in to the world.

He comes home, running, to tell me about Google Earth, how he’s using PowerPoint and learning to code – “I’m going to make an app, Mama”. He sits and draws for hours, intricate, delicate, life-filled imaginary worlds. Is spellbound (as was I) by the Bridge of Taribithia. And Yoko the Yeti. Loves his sister fiercely, argues with her over the silliest things, makes it up to her in the sweetest of ways.

After football, if they’ve lost, he’ll bring his bad mood home with him, complaining his drawings don’t come out as he imagined, picking over favourite foods he normally wolves down. If they’ve won, his joy knows few bounds.

I could watch him all day, this boy of mine. All day every day and never get bored.

He’s so alive. So human. So true. So noble.

He feels every emotion, throws caution to the wind, lives in awe of the world.

He teaches infinite numbers of things in infinite ways.

When he tells me, “Mama, don’t worry, I can”, I need to listen to what he’s telling me.

He’s giving me a taste of what life will be like when he’s all grown up.

Childhood is fleeting. You can see it pass in time-lapse photos taken years apart*. You can feel it pass in the change of interests, of responses, of the intensity, and frequency, of cuddles. I need to learn to embrace the ephemeral nature of it, to learn to drink the moments in as they come, to appreciate everything while I can.

Parenthood. A lesson in living mindfully.

[This was written as part of 31 days of moving on: today’s word Taste. I wrote for 9 minutes]

*Thanks, Mum, for sending me the photos I’d emailed you all those many moons ago!

31 days of moving on: Day 17 – Long

Today’s post for 31 days of moving on, which coincides with Five Minute Friday. Here goes:

Long

A painful one, this one, for me.

I long for so many things. Great big things like laughing with my Mum, or seeing my brothers [what I’d give to put some Motown on and dance madly with my brother right now!]. Or seeing my friends, oh so many friends, so loving and concerned and supportive. Or my country, with all its beauty, all its beautiful things. Small – yet not so small – things like bright red Post Boxes, blackbirds pecking worms in the mornings and hearing people, all around me, speaking English. Feeling the wind on my face, that very particular October breeze, coming home to bake blackberry crumble and eating it with oozy custard, second helpings because you just can’t help yourself. Being able to ride my bike whenever I want, children in tow. The freedom of a bike and an open road. Feeling safe when I go outside. Seeing beautiful architecture, as a norm. Being surrounded by clever, inspiring people. Drinking in inspiration daily. Ah. Home. Never has a word sounded so sweet yet so painful.

I long for elsewhere. It’s the only daily constant. “I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to be here” droning around my head like an endless train song, as I swat mosquitoes, hear the incessant peeping of carsfeel my clothes cling to me from the heat, am scared out of my wits as another cockroach creeps out in the dark. I think of Greene and his tales of English men abroad, on missions for the Government or as spies. I remember reading him, as a teenager, and thinking to myself, “It sounds like Hell” (whilst being secretly attracted to being a spy on Top Secret missions). And it is. Pretty much Hell. Too much heat. Too much noise. Too much dust. Too many people. Too little of too many things: beauty, decency, humanity. It is to me, now, a godforsaken place. A place humanity forgot.

It’s crazy-making, this trapped feeling I carry around with me. I bring myself back to Earth, back from the panic in my head, by focusing on the good. My two littles. Their beauty. Their wisdom and calm. The fact that I’m with them, we’re together. My mind wanders, I long to show them London, to have them experience so much more than this small box we’re trapped in. I reprimand myself, bring my mind back to focusing on the now. I can’t live in the past or the future. I can only manage the now. I find myself longing for a better life – a life that’s not here – and my mind  takes me on flights of fancy. But I can’t afford to board those flights. The consequences are just too expensive, too many lost nights of sleep and mental peace, even if ‘mental peace’ is some falsehood based on a sustained suspension of beliefs to enable me to survive here and not where we should be, surrounded by family and friends.

My mind stumbles, scanning, I laugh as I think ‘How much longer do I have to long long long? It’s been too long already’, remembering Dr. Seuss, wondering if I can make some poem about my plight. A humorous one, a limerick: it’d have to be a limerick – nonsensical like my situation and humorous, because there’s only one way through: laughing at what I can laugh at and forgetting the rest, filing it under ‘Know I need to deal with this but later, later”….knowing it’ll all come back to bite me later, this suppressing of emotions, but the mother in me taking over, willing me on to be strong, to get through this Herculean – this Sisyphean – task. For the children. My children need to see me strong, have one stable parent in the midst of this chaos.

As a child, I was always astounded when I read of those miracle moments of strength gifted to people as they rescued loved ones in need: mothers who lifted cars with their bare hands to save their babies trapped underneath, fathers who dove in to icy waters to save their children, losing their own lives in the process. I remember being stunned by the sheer power of love. I wonder, now, was this God guiding me, pre-empting my trials, instilling, in me, a sense of ‘if they can do it, so can I?’. I feel, like those Mums I read about, like I lift and carry a car around with me most days, to stop the weight of it all crushing them both. I pray, every day, multiple times a day, that the weight does not crush me beneath it one day, unforeseen conditions causing me to topple and it all to come crashing down. I tell myself I can do this, can hold it all at bay, because I have to. I am guarding two innocent angels from this load.

END

How to get over epic shit (aka 31 days of moving on: Day 14 – away)

This is today’s post for 31 days of five minute free-writing, brought forth from my psyche by today’s word ‘away’.

I read a lot. I read a lot for work and a lot on the internet while I’m waiting for my muse to strike for work. I see a lot of patterns, a lot of tribes forming and moving ‘current thinking’ forward. I came across something – can’t remember where, can’t remember by whom (I’ll google it when I’m done writing and add in the link at the bottom) that said, ‘Do epic shit’.

It stuck with me. In a world where superlatives are lavished on, often, the most banal things, rendering said superlatives next to useless, the word epic, used in this context, tickled my fancy, made me chuckle to myself, made my brain cogs roll and roll.

This isn’t a ‘quality literature’ or even ‘quality thinking’ type post. I took the guy’s sentiment (I remember he was a guy) and mulled it over, both profoundly and – as you will see here – not so profoundly and woke up this morning obsessed with the phrase ‘Get over epic shit’.

I’ve been through – hell, am going through – some epic shit

Epic, “narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures”. [In this story, my story, I’m the heroic figure]

Shit, “…entirely unacceptable circumstances that are entirely beyond said hero’s control”

[In this story, my life story, add ‘epic’ and ‘shit’ together, that’s one big mother of a cross to bear].

I thought it’d be fun to do a post about ‘How to get over epic shit’. It’s semi-serious, semi-tongue in cheek. Just something I wanted to write about for five minutes (my five minutes start…..now…):

How to get over epic shit: a 12-step primer

1. Think about running away but realise you can’t. Cry. A lot. Repeat. A lot.

2. Decide to face it. All. Head on. “Bring it on!” you’ll shout (in your bravest moments) [You’ll try to forget about the ‘crying in to your pillow’ moments and they’ll become fewer and fewer as you work through the 12 steps]

3. Tuck your already fragile heart away where it can’t be seen, to protect it, so it’ll come out with as few battle scars as possible [your heart is your most treasured possession, it does not do to leave it out for the scorned to trample]

4. Fold your tenderest places away where they can’t be hurt anymore [these tender places, along with your heart, must be protected at all costs; they are the most vulnerable, beautiful, parts of you]

5. Once tucked and folded, start to mourn, somehow…just start…

6. Face your feelings. All of them. Don’t avoid any of them – they’ll come back to bite you, with a vengeance, if you don’t face them now

7. Learn who you are again. You’ll be a different person to the one you knew, but you’ll like yourself more. Much more.

8. Love the parts of yourself you’ll rediscover. It’ll be like a new romance, all flurries of excitement and stolen moments

9. Try something new. You’ll find out lots about yourself. This will prove valuable as you move forward.

10. Appreciate your alone time. It’ll build strength. It’ll give you strength you didn’t know you had.

11. Pluck up, puff out, your chest. Hold your head high. You got this.

12. Decide not to let it beat you. Repeat steps as necessary.

[Note: I googled (or is that ‘Googled’?) the phrase. Can’t for the life of me work out who originated it or where I’d read the Very Good Article that used the phrase…]

31 days of moving on: Day 13 – Work

Here’s today’s post for 31 days of five minute free-writing:

Work

It’s hard work, being a single Mum who works full time. Going through hideous divorce proceedings, having weekly meetings with psychologists, lawyers, social workers. Having my life picked over by third parties who don’t know me, don’t know us, don’t really care (according to the dead looks in their eyes) and would, I’m sure, much rather be doing something, anything, other than raking through the ruins of things that have long since rotten and are now in their ultimate death throws.

It takes work to move on after something like this. I can be as positive as I like, I can try to be as hard-hearted as I need to be, but the dark wins some days. The dark that calls to me and shouts, “I know you miss him” (that’s a killer, that one), or “You will be fine, you can do this!” (yes, I know I can, in that I’m perfectly skilled and equipped to do so, but I’m not sure – some days – if I actually can). It’s hard work, battling all these forces, all these energies and things I never asked for, never called forth myself.

Some days, like today, I’m dog tired. Weary to my core. I woke up and went straight to bed again. Dizzy. Tired. Vertigo they call it. Stress-induced vertigo. [Oh, hurray, yet more debilitating things befall me!].

I do what I can to feel marginally better. I read. I go through my self care routine that’s bordering on ritualistic. But, you know, it’s bloody hard work. I feel lonely. I miss two lives, maybe more: that of my life in my own country, with my home and my family and my friends and, also – perhaps even more painful – my life with my husband. It all ended so abruptly, with not even a chance to say goodbye. And now I don’t even recognise him when I see him. It’s a multi-sworded grief that has me in its grips.

It’s hard work, pulling apart my emotions with regards to this, checking each strand and asking, “Is this because I miss him or because I miss a relationship, company, companionship, someone real to talk to that’s not a child or ten thousand or more miles away or is it, perhaps, because I miss my Grandad’s garden, seeing robins or the rain or the autumn leaves or or or…”. It’s bloody hard work, this constant battering.

And I feel those tears come rolling, those tears I’m unable to wash away. And I let them come. I feel. every. one. As they run they lighten my load inside. But its one hell of a big deep well. Frightening in its proportions as I stand above and survey the scale of it.

I force the tears sometimes, I play Louis, hear him laugh, but never mock, Give me a kiss to build a dream on. Or I turn to Chet and his despair and the tears come rolling, rolling. Unstoppable. Mighty in their insistence to be set free….

[Note: I wrote for longer than 5 minutes (8.5 minutes)]

31 days of moving on: Day 12: Rest

Joining in with 31 days of five minute free-writing*. Here goes:

Rest

A few days of rest. Much needed. A chance to reflect and recharge. To spend some ‘down time’ with the ones that matter most. To read and sip tea leisurely. To just be. Without rushing and busy-ness. To realise you’ve spent twenty minutes looking out the window at nothing much, yet everything, all at once. To flick a magazine and eat chocolate or to watch, simply watch, life go by, for much too long, from a cafe. Earthly delights.

Inevitably, when we’re having a lazy day, the littles will ask me to tell them stories. I tease them – for I know what they really want – and read them a few books, asking them, then, which other book they want me to read. They pull my arms, laughing, “No, Mama, not another book…stories. Stories, you know…the stories”. Ah, the stories. [Realising this is the job of a Grandmama, but they don’t have her here, I’m only too happy to oblige].

They love the stories of when I was young, when I lived at home with my brothers, of tender, cherished, times. Of a time I was innocent, like them, when I made mistakes [is there anything more wonderful than admitting you made mistake to a child and seeing them sigh that little sigh of relief, seeing their inner haunches relax, as they realise that you’re not infallible? I call it ‘future-buffing’ them; the sooner they realise even I make mistakes, the more likely they’ll risk making mistakes themselves and what is making mistakes if not an important – necessary – step forwards? To greater things, to self realisation, to self control?].

So, we sit, I tell them the stories, family stories, ‘Helen as a young girl’ stories, tales of my Dad, snippets from my Gran and Grandad, words that bind us, root us, pinpoint us, and our bearings – like flags pick-axed in to the North Pole – telling us that we’re here, declaring ‘This is what we are’ – grounding us to something firm as we navigate our lives in a world who’s only certainty is unpredictability.

I see their faces fill with delight, hear their belly laughs, see their little chests rise and fall with pride as they feel, deep within, my reaching out to them, in these moments, as a peer. I see their wonder as they become riveted to the words and their implications. My heart soars as I hear them ask for ‘…more Mama’, ‘…again, Mama, please, again’. I offer them the power of my voice, the power of our family history, and they drink it in, their souls filling with substance, with depth and knowing.

What are these stories if not anchors to their (our) past, beacons for their (our) future? Glimpses of challenges, of adventures, of things that teach them that all can be overcome, teaching them that faith and commitment and resilience will bring them out of even their darkest nights? These stories, also, offer us a chance to speak so our voice is heard. What I wouldn’t give to hear my Dad’s voice again. Anything. So, knowing this, I give the children the gift of my voice. May they hear its lulls and depths and peaks and intonations not only when I’m asking them to put things away or to tell them ‘dinner’s ready’. May they hear it when I’m speaking family wisdoms to them, giving them glimpses of their past, to light their future. May they, also, through these stories, learn to listen. May they develop the patience to listen, truly listen, may they learn, through them, that it’s important to listen to what people say – and how they say it – for there’s nothing so selfish as listening cursorily, simply waiting for an opportunity to speak. May these stories teach them to value what others say, to have patience, because patience allows many of life’s lessons to be learned at the time they’re first presented.

These stories, I realise, are like threads from a blanket that, having been left unweaved, whilst waiting for the children to listen to them, become weaved as they listen to them, because then they become part of their being, a tangible part of who they now are and who they will become. They will carry these woven threads with them, ends left unweaved, to new places, to tell new stories that will then be weaved onwards. Our stories are this big woven blanket, without end, never knowing when or how it might be worked upon. A big woven blanket that offers solace, deep solace, on days of rest when the mind wanders, often to places that are not useful.

Wrap yourself in that blanket as much as you can: there you’ll find your roots, your essence, your future. From that you’ll gain strength. May your eyes always shine with wonder as you hear the stories of your people. If you find your eyes becoming less shiny, seek that blanket: it’ll offer you a way forward by showing you the way back.

*Today's post took longer than 5 minutes to write. My five minute beeper
went off and I hadn't finished, so I went with the flow
(it felt like lots of good was coming out of me on to the page).

31 days of moving on: Day 11 – Teach

Here’s today’s post for 31 days of five minute free-writing:

Teach

I’ve been taught a whole lot of useful things by a whole lot of incredible – and not so incredible – people. I try to teach my children these things by example. For children are, if nothing else, small sponges, open to sucking in, osmosis-like, anything and everything they experience. Whist teaching them by example, I also teach them, subtly, to filter, because this ‘learning by osmosis’ is dangerous stuff and they need rules to know what they should keep, what they should let go and what they should be wary of. I see them and I smile proudly to myself because they are such gems, such little jewels, with such powerful minds and such strong skills across so many areas. I see them and I sigh sweet deep sighs of love for them. They’re my two little angels who, with just their smiles, make my world okay again. They teach me so much, so much about love and tolerance and patience, about so much more. This teaching, this learning by osmosis is, I realise, very much a two-way street. I teach, they learn, they teach, I learn. It’ll be this way our whole lives and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My world is full, my heart overflows, when I think of their little faces, their giggly laughter, their squeals of delight, their wonder and awe over such simple things. Life has taught me a great deal recently, so much that its been difficult to process, but I realise, with these two to guide me, to teach me, to keep me on my toes, we’ll be OK. We’re a great team. The best, really.

31 days of moving on: Day 10 – Care

Joining in with 31 days of five minute free-writing which, today, coincides with Five Minute Friday.

Here goes:

Care

I’ve heard people say, “You care too much”. I always smile to myself when I remember those times. How can someone care too much? Is there a set amount of care we should devote ourselves to, and then after that, it’s too much? I’m a person who gets affected – deeply affected – by wrongdoing, by witnessing injustice, by seeing people being unkind. It hurts me as if it were happening to me, I feel it so deeply. It’s just who I am. I don’t have a switch that I can turn on and off with regards to care.

This comes directly from my Gran: I distinctly remember her, several times, getting so upset by something she’d seen, she’d cry (small, soft tears to herself) and would be so concerned, she’d have to get involved, whatever the cost to herself. One time, we were in the market. She saw a mother shouting at her little daughter, pulling her along, fair launching in to this beautiful little girl. My Gran ran across to where they were and said, lightheartedly, to the Mum, “Calm down, you’re in such a rush, calm down, let your daughter get her breath”. The woman then launched in to a tirade against my Gran, swearing, telling her not to “…stick your nose in it, lady”.

My Gran bent down, eye to eye with the little girl and offered her a sweet (my sweet, but I wasn’t worried, I knew she was showing me something important, I was in awe). The little girl stretched out her hand, timidly, and took the sweet. The mother started shouting again, that my Gran had no business doing that, no business rewarding her daughter’s bad behaviour. My Gran – serenely – replied, “You have no business showing your daughter your bad behaviour. You should think a little more about that” and she walked off. A stall holder, who’d seen everything that happened, raced across to my Gran, “You care too much, you do, that’s your problem, you care too much”.

I don’t think it’s possible to care too much. It’s possible to misplace how you direct your care, but caring too much, I don’t think so.

I actually think the opposite. It’s because we don’t care enough that bad things are allowed to happen, to propagate, to multiply, to take over. If more people spoke up when they see – feel – injustices, perhaps, over time, there’d be fewer injustices. If people cared enough to not be horrible or unkind or to let their unkind thoughts out in to the world, then the world would be that much brighter, that much more bearable for those who are at the mercy of these unkind thoughts and words. Caring, kindness, after all, starts at home. With yourself.

I’m a hopeless romantic but I’m also realistic: I know this is ‘pie in the sky’ thinking but I love to imagine. A world where everyone cares enough, where everyone can bloom because their environment is kind, not hostile, because their surroundings allow them to believe in possibility, infinite possibilities.

Wouldn’t that be simply wonderful?

Heavenly.

Heaven-like.